CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano’s Three Points to the LA Galaxy’s CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals first leg against C.F. Monterrey.
MIDFIELD MUST SET THE TEMPO FROM THE START
Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas have become one of the most effective midfield tandems in MLS, but the Brazilian pair will face the test of their careers against a powerful Monterrey midfield on Wednesday night. Whichever duo is better able to control the pace of the game will most likely determine the result.
Maintaining possession will be vital for the Galaxy midfielders as Monterrey’s central midfield tandem of Walter Ayovi and Jesus Zavala have made a living off shutting down opposing offenses with their pressure and ability to spark counterattacks. Against Monterrey, look for the Brazilians to attempt to spread the field as they look to create space behind the defense.
If Juninho and Sarvas can set the tempo early, it will allow attackers Mike Magee, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan to create opportunities and test Monterrey back-up goalkeeper Juan de Dios Ibarra, who will once again start in place of the injured Jonathan Orozco.
SET PIECES MAY PROVE DECISIVE
Scoring chances will be few and far between in what is expected to be an intense and energetic affair on Wednesday, making set pieces important for both sides.
For the Galaxy, finishing set piece opportunities will be crucial as they look to get off to a fast start in the first leg. This makes the size of Omar Gonzalez –and possible center back partner Leonardo—vital as LA will have a significant size advantage on Monterrey’s central defenders—specifically 5-foot-11 center back Hiram Mier. That is not the only plus for LA as forward Robbie Keane is expected to play on Wednesday, giving Juninho and whoever else takes set pieces for LA yet another target.
Meanwhile on the defensive end, Monterrey have shown that they could be just as dangerous on set pieces as LA in recent weeks. During Monterrey’s victory over Pumas UNAM last week, poor marking on set pieces doomed UNAM as Los Rayados were able to find plenty of space at the edge of the penalty area to pepper the opposition goal. If LA are to come out on top against Monterrey tight marking will be essential.
TARGET DANGERMAN SUAZO
The leader of Monterrey’s attack is vaunted Chilean forward Humberto “El Chupete” Suazo, whose ball skills and finishing abilities make him one of CONCACAF’s finest strikers.
Galaxy forward Landon Donovan is among those impressed with Suazo labeling the Chilean as one of the two most complete forwards in CONCACAF—with LA teammate Robbie Keane being the other. The comparison is fitting as like Keane, Suazo’s off the ball movement is crucial to help create chances for Monterrey’s overlapping wingers Neri Cardozo and Luis Madrigal. But the only thing that surpasses his distribution is his clinical finishing ability as Suazo frequently is near the top of the Mexican scoring charts due to his knack for finding space behind defenders.
Stopping Suazo will be no easy task, but teams had had success this season by muscling the forward off the ball, meaning that LA defender Omar Gonzalez—a whose uncle was once captain of Monterrey—will likely be tasked with shutting down Los Rayados’ greatest weapon.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com